Are you planning a cruise? There is a plethora of cruise money saving tips to help you save money during your next vacation on the high seas. Some of these tips are specifically for Royal Caribbean, but most will work for all cruise lines.
Cruises can be an affordable travel option – if you avoid being nickel-and-dimed at every turn, once your on board. Follow these Caribbean cruise money saving tips & tricks to stay on budget.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Money Saving Tips
:: Book last minute – Booking last minute cruises can save you a ton of money. If you’re flexible with your schedule & room type this is a great way to cruise for less. Look for cruises going out within the next few weeks. Cruise lines don’t want to sail with empty staterooms, so you can usually find a good deal. Payment will be due immediately for last minute bookings, so keep that in mind.
Booking these types of cruises are most economical if you’re within driving distance to the port or you’ve confirmed that you can get inexpensive airfare prior to booking.
:: Book early – Conversely, you can find good deals if you book 6 – 9 months prior to sailing. If you know when you want to cruise or have a specific room type and location you want, it’s best to book early. Sometimes early bookings come with incentives on room rates or even airfare.
If you are planning an Alaska cruise, premium rooms fill up quickly, particularly those with a view or balcony. The sea and land tours can fill up a year in advance. Always plan for these types of cruises well ahead of time.
:: Book cruises 2-3 months prior to sailing – Royal Caribbean requires final payment 60 days prior to the sailing date for 3, 4, or 5-night cruise vacations, 75 days prior to the sailing date for 7-night or longer cruise vacations, and 90 days for holiday (Christmas and New Year’s) cruises. If you looked at a cruise but found it to be above your budget, check back on these dates to possibly get a better rate. People cancel or simply don’t make final payment. Cruise lines want to fill these rooms, so you may be able to take advantage of cancellations.
:: Try a repositioning cruise – When ships are being relocated, there will usually be big discounts on rooms. Just remember that the ship is moving to a new port. It won’t be making a return trip, so you will need to book airfare back.
:: Cruise during the “off season” – Cruising is more expensive during Christmas, Spring Break and the summer. If the kids are out of school, you can be sure the prices will be higher. Try to pick off times to cruise. We’ve pulled the kids out of school for a week and cruised for HALF the cost!
After Labor day can be a great time to cruise. Once kids go back to school, fares drop. I don’t recommend taking older kids out at this time but it could be great for young families or a couples trip. Also cruising after Thanksgiving but before Christmas will save you money. Many people are too busy this time of year to travel or are saving money for Christmas.
Cruise prices can vary drastically week from week, so search multiple weeks to find the best price.
:: Cruise during hurricane season – If you’re willing to take a gamble, book a cruise during hurricane season. You will pay less money for sailing this time of year as many cruisers avoid the Caribbean and Mexico. If you are prone to sea sickness or if you will be utterly devastated to have your itinerary change, this is not the cruise for you.
Cruise ships will change course to avoid storms to keep passengers safe. This may mean different islands or difficulty being shuttled into port. You can also experience high seas, even if you’re not near the storm. On the other hand, it could be totally smooth sailing and you got a bargain.
:: Book an interior room – It’s cheaper to purchase an interior room than a balcony or suite. If you don’t mind an interior room, put the money into excursions or to offset the cost of gratuities. This isn’t a money saving option for my family as I WON’T cruise if I don’t have a balcony.
:: Compare rooms for the best rate – If you’re a large family, it may be more cost effective to purchase 2 joining rooms rather than a suite. Always look at all the options.
:: Look for deals – Look on the Royal Caribbean website for current specials and offers. You should also sign-up for email alerts to be among the first to know about the latest deals.
:: Take advantage of special interest group rates – Military, seniors and residents of specific states such as Florida get special rates. Always ask to see if you qualify.
:: Sail on older ships – Save money by sailing on the older ships in the fleet. Royal Caribbeans fleet has been undergoing refurbishments, so you’ll find updated rooms and many of the amenities of the new ships for a fraction of the price.
:: Use a travel agent – Quality travel agents can be beneficial when booking your cruise. They are great at finding the best price and a good agent will also keep an eye on your booking to notify you of discounts even after you have booked.
:: Book your next cruise on board – If you book your next cruise while on the ship through a Cruise Consultant, you can get a discount and an on board credit. If you don’t know when you want to cruise again, you can book a Ghost Cruise or Future Booking. The deposit it refundable if you decide not to take the cruise.
:: Upgrades are rare, but they do occur – A great way to increase you chances of an upgrade is to complete your upgrade preferences under your Crown & Anchor profile. Simply login to your Crown & Anchor account, select “profile” and select “upgrade preferences” from the menu. This is obviously not a guarantee for an upgrade, but it doesn’t hurt to have this completed if an upgrade becomes available.
Dining, Show & Spa Tips:
:: Reserve specialty dining in advance – Reserve your table at one of the many specialty restaurants before you sail. Save up to 40% with a 3 dining option or B1G1 offer if you dine on day #1 and #2. Please note that advance offers and savings can change by ship.
A newer feature is that kids ages 6 – 12 can dine at the specialty restaurants for just $10 and order off a special menu. Kids ages 5 and under will dine free.
:: Dine in specialty restaurants the first night – If you book on board the ship and dine in a specialty restaurant on the first night, you will receive a discount.
:: Look for spa specials – The spa typically offers discounts on port days. You can also find deals later in the cruise as they try to fill up open appointment times. My mother-in-law likes to wait for these deals to book a massage.
:: Consider purchasing a drink package – There are several beverage packages to choose from when cruising with Royal Caribbean. All packages, with the exception of the bottled water package, are priced per person, per day. You will have to purchase for the entire length of your cruise, but you do not need to purchase for each family member in your stateroom. My husband drinks soda and I don’t (usually). It wouldn’t be beneficial for me to have a soda package. That being said, the packages can’t be shared and are non-transferable. If my husband has the soda package, he can’t get sodas for me to drink.
Do the math to determine what package is right for you. On average, how many soda’s, bottles of water, premium coffee, glasses of wine or bottles of beer will you likely consume per day?
Beverage package might be for you:
Morning: 1 cup of premium coffee
Mid-morning: 1 bottle of water
Lunch: 1 soda
Mid-afternoon: 1 bottle of water, 1 drink by the pool & 1 coffee pick-me-up
Dinner: 1 glass of wine
After dinner: 2 cocktails & a bottle of water to rehydrate
Beverage package might not be for you:
You’re fine with standard coffee with breakfast, you don’t drink soda, you’re happy to fill your reusable water bottle from the sink on port days, and you might have 1 or 2 alcoholic drinks max per day.
My in-laws are avid cruisers. Neither drink coffee and neither drink alcohol. However, my father-in-law only drinks diet soda. They always purchase a soda package for him. My mother-in-law doesn’t get a drink package as she may drink 1 soda during their entire cruise.
Purchasing drink packages can be expensive especially if you don’t utilize them. However, not purchasing a package could cost you more. Know your personal habits and make the appropriate decision for each traveler.
Note – Juice is free at breakfast. Pour an extra glass and put it in your stateroom fridge to drink later.
:: Order a bucket of beers – If you’re traveling with a group, order a bucket of beers to save money. It’s slightly cheaper than purchasing individually.
Another cost saving tip is to purchase a bottle of wine instead of ordering by the glass. If you don’t finish the bottle at dinner, the wait staff can cork it and save it for you to drink the next night or you can take it with you. If you save your bottle for another night, you can even enjoy it at another dining venue. If you saved a bottle from your dinner in the main dining room, but dine the next night in a specialty restaurant, let the staff know and they will go get your saved bottle.
:: Bring your wine on board to save money – Two 750 ml bottles of wine or champagne per stateroom can be brought on during boarding day only. This is a great way to save a little money. You can NOT bring on liquor or beer. If you purchase alcohol in port, it will be held until the last day of the sailing.
:: Free room service –
As of March 27, 2017, select sailings will start offering our enhanced room service with exciting new dishes for a delivery charge of $7.95 per stateroom order. This will roll out across all fleets. Please see the information here.
I read breakfast items listed under the continental menu will still be free of charge.
:: Eat lunch on the ship instead of in port – If you’re close to the ship, hop back on board to enjoy lunch for free. If you’re traveling on an excursion, bring along granola bars and other snacks to tide over your crew until you can get back to the ship later. Even if you plan to eat at your destination, snacks are always a good idea. A quality backpack is a must for carrying water bottles, snacks and towels off the ship.
:: Don’t miss the shows – The shows are fabulous on cruise ships. There are usually a variety of shows that are suitable for all ages. Where else can you see Broadway type performances and concerts for FREE?! On the Allure and Oasis you can book your shows in advance, so you don’t miss the night’s top entertainment.
General Savings Tips:
:: Take advantage of kids clubs – If your child is 3 – 17, take advantage of the FREE kids clubs. It’s a great way to let the kids play and meet other children their age. If you have an infant or kids younger than 3, there is usually an additional fee. If sailing with younger kids, why not ask Grandma to join? Spend a fun family vacation together and get a free babysitter for some of the cruise 😉
:: Avoid extra expenses – All the extra expenses such as trips to Starbucks or the cupcake and ice cream shops can add up quickly. Also, think about if you REALLY need to take part in that art auction or watch sale. Do you really need another watch? I doubt it.
:: Turn off cellphone data – If you will keep your cellphone on during the cruise, ensure that data has been turned OFF. I always have my phone for the clock and camera. If you leave data on, your phone will constantly be searching for a signal & could perform automatic updates. It will bank off the ship’s satellite which will cost you exorbitant fees from your carrier.
Service will be available in some ports and you may or may not be roaming, depending on your carrier. Call your cellphone provider in advance and ask about charges at the destinations you will be visiting.
:: Become a Crown & Anchor member – Once you have completed one Royal Caribbean cruise, you can sign-up to become a member. Sign-up online, on the ship or by phone. The benefits vary based on your membership level, ie. the number of times you have cruised with Royal Caribbean. The benefits include cruise savings, onboard amenity offers & special onboard events.
:: Use your Royal Caribbean Visa Signature credit card – Royal Caribbean has partnered with Visa to offer the Royal Caribbean Visa Signature card which earns MyCruise Rewards that can be used toward onboard credit, cruise discounts, upgrades and cruise vacations. There is also a sign-up bonus that can help you reach your bonuses faster.
:: Consider a photo package – Photographers are all over the ship to take pictures of guests throughout the cruise. While purchasing individual prints can get pricey, photo packages are available to reduce the cost. Also check online before you sail. You might be able to snatch up a pre-cruise deal.
The price you pay for your cruise includes accommodation, transportation, port fees and meals which can make it an affordable option for travelers. The problem is all the extras (including the gratuities) that you might not consider when booking your cruise. Use these tips to help you save money and learn ways to steer clear of a huge bill at the end of your cruise.
I found a couple of books with good reviews that may provide additional help as well
- Tips From The Cruise Addict’s Wife: Tips, tricks and stories to plan the best cruise ship vacation ever which is an Amazon bestseller!
What are your Royal Caribbean money saving tips?
Don’t miss my Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Secrets for more tips on your next voyage! Did you know there is a parade or that you can order more than one entree at dinner? Check out these tips and many more.
Rodney G Wollam says
For Inside Staterooms, Where do you get better deals: Onboard future cruise planning or last minute deals?
Dana Zeliff says
It can depend, but you can get nice extras such as lower deposits and stateroom credits by booking while onboard. The credit could cover all the gratuities of your future cruise and more. As well as getting whatever current promotions are being offered for the cruise. One thing we’ve done in the past is to book and watch the cruise to see if better rates become available. Then you can call RCL and usually get a stateroom credit for the difference.
Last minute deals can be great if you don’t care about the location of your stateroom. Even a few months out, many of the ideal staterooms are sold out.
If you book onboard with a refundable deposit, you can always cancel before final payment and get your $ back. This could be an option if you see a better deal pop up for another cruise.
Basically, our advice is to book onboard with a refundable deposit but still watch the cruise rates and either call to get a credit or cancel before final payment if you find a better deal and are unable to get the credit. Once you disembark, you’ve lost the advantage of the extra stateroom credits.
Unfortunately they will not credit you after final payment is made even if the price drops. That seems unfair.
Dana Zeliff says
Yes, unfortunately they don’t. They will usually discount unsold cabins after the final payment date so won’t provide a credit. If you’re looking for a deal, we’ve booked a couple cruises taking advantage of those discounts.
Emma Le Teace says
I’m taking my first royal caribbean cruise in October and this was really helpful! Thank you 🙂
Dana Zeliff says
I’m so glad you found the information helpful! Have a wonderful first cruise and let us know if you have questions.
Hi love your tips…..my husband and I purchase the 5 night specialty dinning package and usually eat in one on the first night…I pre book everything before we travel……do you know if the 30% credit of the value is available to us too….would be great for hubby to use on a couple of beer as he doesn’t drink a big amount of alcohol. Thanks in advance
Dana Zeliff says
I’m so glad you love the tips!
It looks like they updated the dining package policy in December 2016. You’ll now save up to 40% based on the # of dining nights. It looks like you no longer get a credit just pay a reduced amount – even better 🙂
SPECIALTY DINING PACKAGE
3 Restaurants $75 pp
4 Restaurants $90 pp
5 Restaurants $ 105 pp
Thanks for the tips! I’ve actually never ever been on a cruise before. My parents are obsessed with them though. I honestly never even thought about last minute deals. Makes sense really. I’ll have to keep my open for them. Good to know about the membership as well. Makes you want to go with Royal Caribbean!
Dana Zeliff says
Last minute deals can be a great option! I’m sure your parents are full of tips as well. My in-laws have been on over 30 cruises, so I understand the obsession 🙂
Really great tips. I love cruises, and I too prefer balcony rooms, but if you’re willing to take a risk you can also save money by booking an interior room and then sometimes upgrade to a balcony room or suite at a reduced cost the day of sailing if there are rooms available.
Dana Zeliff says
My husband tells me this all the time. I’m just not brave enough to risk it. The keeps trying to get me to hold off and hope for an upgrade though.
Meg Jerrard says
Thanks for these tips – some brilliant points for saving extra cash 🙂 I love that you included booking last minute, booking early, and booking inbetween, because I’ve found that there really is never one set answer to the best time to book. You really can find some fab last minute deals, but then if you’re unlucky enough to have left it to the last minute and it’s proved to be a popular cruise you’re likely going to have saved more from booking early on.
I think what it comes down to re timing is really having researched the prices so that you can recognize a great deal when it comes up and keeping tabs on them over a period time, continually checking rates so that you can grab it when you do recognize thst fab deal 🙂
Thanks for the great tips!
Dana Zeliff says
Yes, sometimes the last minute deals aren’t great especially if they are for rooms no one else wants. I totally agree with researching the prices beforehand, so you know what is a great deal to grab.
Vicky and Buddy says
I found that where I spent my money was on all the extra pictures they took whenever you got off the ship or when they came around during dinner. Which was crazy because I was taking so many pictures. But I still felt like it was part of the experience, so I bought them all! 🙁
They also have photo packages. We did it with our lasr cruise and received every picture taken by the ship’s photographer.
Dana Zeliff says
Great tip! We talked about doing that on our next cruise.
Michele TravelwithMrsT says
What a great list of tips! My husband and I are considering our first cruise, and off-season will definitely be an option for us! Great suggestions for the beverage options as well!
Dana Zeliff says
I love cruising in the off season. My kids enjoy having a pool that’s not too crowded 🙂
Great tips! I’ve never been on a cruise, but I’m thinking I should try it one of these days. These tips will definitely come in handy 🙂 Maybe I should look into booking a last minute one soon–great idea!
Dana Zeliff says
I’m thinking about waiting to see if I can grab a last minute deal in October. It’s time for another cruise 🙂
Great tips! Some I had heard about before but most were new to me. Neither my husband or I have been on a cruise yet but its something we have been considering, so this was a timely post!
Beverly Burmeier says
Cruising is one of my favorite modes of travel Royal Caribbean is a good line
I would not have thought to use a travel agent. It seems like the opposite would be true. Good tips.
We used a travel agent and got a great price. Not only that but every time the price changed she emailed us “price reduction” .. She saved us $1700 on two rooms even after we paid. In addition to the cruise lines offering deals like on board credits or what not, the travel agents offered there own gifts. We have 8 dinners, extras on board credit and 10% back on excursions. A family of 5 those add up.
Who is your travel agent?
Who is your travel agent. Ours has done nothing other than book the cruise. I have done everything else.
Sounds Great who is your Travel Agent. My Husband and I have Cruised before. But my family wants to go next time. So we will need to get Rooms for 6 extra people. Hope to hear from you. Royal Caribbean Cruises.
Dana Zeliff says
Derrick (the other half of our blog) is a travel agent, so feel free to shoot us an email if you need help booking your cruise. His specialty is cruising, of course 🙂
Laura Lynch says
Great tips! Cruises can be very expensive and the extras really add up quickly if you’re not careful. We booked about 10-months in advance and then I watched the deals all the way up to our final payment date to see if I could shave $$ off the total and that worked really well. You can cancel your current resv and rebook whenever the price goes down or other perks are added. We saved over $1000 doing that.
You know that with Royal Caribbean you do not need to cancel and rebook they will offer you the going rate of you call their customer service. Keep an eye on the prices and when it drops…give them a call they will gladly save you money. Using a travel agent gave us a group rate that was a lot cheaper too and they watch the rates for you as well.
Jack Whitley says
done it multiple times
Dana Zeliff says
We always try to watch prices and call when there is a reduction. RCL makes it easy
Freda Hunt says
Thanks for the tip